Socializing the Singleton Puppy: Swagger’s Big Adventures

I think I have neglected you blog readers a bit by posting a lot of my updates about Swagger on my new Facebook page ( So today I am going overboard, with this mega- blog post. And yes, I promised to get back to our talk on NRM this week:).

As you can see in the photo above Swagger’s structure is quite lovely at this stage of the game. His structure will play a big role in my decision to keep him or let Penny (one of our Say Yes instructors) have Swagger. Swagger is making a strong case for himself and just Friday he snuck onto my macbook and produced this little video for me to find.

I have been spending a lot of time with Swagger who turned 4 weeks old today. Socializing is so important when you have a singleton puppy. First I wanted to make sure he grew up to be a confident puppy. Feature took care of that. She wrestles with him daily and always lets him win.

I have introduced the first of many “noisey” toys that he gets to beat up adding to his growing confidence. The video below was taken about 5 days ago. You can see both Feature and the “Pig” working their magic to help build Swagger’s swagger:).

Saturday afternoon John and I took singleton puppy Swagger (almost 4 weeks old) up for a play date with a litter of Lab puppies 10 days older than he. Knowing this was something I wanted to do, I have been thinking about how I could best prepare Swagger for this trip ever since he was born.

First of all I consulted with my veterinarian as I wanted to know what the health risks I was potentially exposing Swagger to (being that he was less than 4 weeks old). I was told they were little to none serious threats provided I knew there was a high level of health care in the litter we were visiting.

With that behind me I started to prepare Swagger in other ways. First of all I knew I would have to lock him in a crate for at least an hour as we made our way to home of my friend who owned the Lab puppies. Sooo, I had to get Swagger used to a crate and get him used to a crate that moved.

Now that would be pretty easy if I had some sort of reinforcement I could use to shape the puppy. Since he was still nursing and has little interest in solid food that would be out of the question. Knowing Swagger was a very curious puppy I decided to put an empty crate with a blanket in it in his pen to explore as he play around.

After he happily ran in and out of his crate I increased the challenge to him by raising the crate up onto  two balance disks. That way it was Swagger that chose to go in and out or stay and relax. For three days after I made the change he no longer spent time in the crate. But then, just as fast as he stopped going in the crate, he decided he liked it again and began to play and rest in the wobbly crate. It was not unstable, I made sure it wouldn’t tip over but it definitely moved a lot with Swagger inside.

Swagger comfortably playing in his wobbly crate. A great way to get the puppy used to the fact that crates may move. Super foundation for traveling in a car or even a plane!

Mr. Swagger the Ham. Now loving his crate. The lack of a door gives the young puppy choices to do what he pleases. At this young age it is critical the puppy playfully investigates his own way.

I still hadn’t added a crate door to lock the puppy inside but with so little time before our trip, I knew I would not get that chance and would have to rely on his obvious love for the crate and his adaptable nature.  In a perfect world I would have locked him inside once or twice, but on Sunday I just had to “wing it” knowing he has chosen to seek out the crate to play and sleep for a full day by then.

The other thing I did to try and help the puppy prepare for  his big adventure was that every day for a week, I took Swagger into a new room in our house and sat him down to see how he coped. This included three new flooring surfaces. At first this was a bit upsetting to Swagger. He didn’t move much and had his tail tucked when he did. Within minutes though he was happily investigating. By Friday (his 5th new room of the week) he hit the ground running, happy to investigate.

The last thing I could do was allow Swagger to meet our adult dogs at home. I did this by setting up an exercise pen in our Kitchen and have him spend half of every day in the pen (while being supervised by me). Each of my adult dogs would spend time visiting Swagger through the bars. He isn’t quite old enough that I would allow anyone other than his mother to play with him but at least he has been growled at and loved up through the bars by everyone (except Buzz who at 14 1/2 has less interest in puppies than he has ever had!).

Having done all I could to prepare, it was time to pack up Swagger and take him to his big adventure with the Labrador Retrievers.

Swagger happily snuggled down in his crate on my lap on his way to his big adventure. He was such a good boy. Even though he had never been locked in a crate ever before he made little more than one peep all the way there and not a sound all the way home!

Now the event. I put together a video of Swagger’s visit with the Lab puppies. Yes it is cute but it also incredibly educational. I have marked some things to notice about Swagger’s behavour but there is much more I haven’t pointed out. So here is your turn to write. Watch the video clip through and note all of the communication between puppies down with their body language. See what you can pick out. What fun!

Today I am so grateful for Susie Bell of PineBank Labradors for allowing Swagger to be educated by her lovely litter of Lab babies!

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